COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCBD) – After a fall out in the Midlands where customers of Tri-County Electric Cooperative voted the entire board out, lawmakers vowed to make sure customers at other cooperatives in the state know exactly how their money is being spent.
“Over the course of the last year, we learned a lot of things going on that people didn’t know. quite frankly board members taking advantage of their positions,” explained Representative Russell Ott (D), who filed a bill calling for that transparency.
Governor Henry McMaster recently signed that bill into law.
The new law requires electric cooperatives to develop a level of transparency for customers so they can be more involved in the cooperative’s decisions.
“Cooperatives are democratically organized member controlled. Folks have the right to show up at a ballot box and for their vote to count and they can run for the board,” Mike Couick, CEO of The Electric Cooperatives of S.C., said.
The recent law signed by Gov. McMaster requires electric cooperatives to be more transparent with customers.
Representative Gary Clary (R), of Pickens County, where more than 20,000 people are cooperative customers, explained some of the benefits of transparency.
“It does bring transparency to the process of nominations, elections, reporting of financial information, what kind of benefits a co-op board member receives,” Clary said.
The law also requires electric cooperatives to designate a time for customers to vote early for board members.
“If you think about having meetings on Saturday mornings in a place like Laurens, a lot of folks are doing other things and they’re not able to show up at their co-ops annual meeting,” Couick continued.
The voting period would be during the week before the coops annual meeting from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The co-ops would also have to put information online for customers to access.
Electric cooperatives in the Upstate serve more than 150k customers; 18,595 in Spartanburg and 34,183 in Greenville.